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Sunday, December 30, 2012

One Night in Beijing.

I was recently in Greater China and having a bit of a Facebook withdrawal syndrome. No friends fawning over my pictures or status updates that is making me feel kinda depressed (but i think it's the weather).
Well, i read from the Wall St Journal that Facebook makes people fat. I guess the miles i'm walking in -20 degree is keeping me from being fat.

While i spent 72 hours in Beijing city, i suppose you can do the best bits within 24 provided you walk & absorb quickly. If you're a non Mandarin speaking tourist, be sure to have all addresses in Mandarin as taxi drivers cannot read alphabets.

1) Forbidden City

If you didn't see Imperial Palace, you can't say you've been to Beijing. Built in 1406 - 1420, this was the permanent residence of the emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. All those period dramas we've seen on TV comes to life as i walk through the imperial grounds. Hire a guide if you're on your own, they usually function like touts on ground. I hear hiring a guide is worthwhile as they reveal more secrets of China's history, a pity i only knew this later.

You'll also see people hawking maps of the place for 5 yuan (sgd 1), it is not necessary to buy it because you get it free once you pass the entrance with a ticket.

One thing i appreciate about China is that despite these tourist destinations being extremely popular, ticket prices are VERY affordable (SGD 6 - 10).

Directions: TianAnMen East Station 天安门东
Note that the Imperial Palace is not called Forbidden City but labelled as The Palace Museum 故宫. You'll pass by the gates of TianAnMen first where's there's another museum, the Imperial Palace is further in. I bought the wrong ticket initially but was able to refund it.

Disappointedly, I didn't find too many hilarious English translations. China have indeed improved and caught up with the world. While our fast food are Western (KFC, Pizza, MacD etc), they have Chinese fast food. Fast like the no shadow kick.
2) Art District 798
Is a huge former warehouse district that now house numerous art galleries (free to enter), cafes, design shops and stores with kitschy things. The area is big so if you see something, don't hesitate to buy it for you are unlikely to retrace back your steps.
Directions: The nearest station is San Yuan Qiao 三元桥. Take a taxi after.

Afternoon Snack
Travelling is about wandering into random spots. Some times you get pleasant finds, most times a new experience.

This was a themed cafe right out of the sitcom FRIENDS. You can order drinks (from SGD 6) that's like in the sitcom, sit around and watch.....FRIENDS. No prizes for guessing right.

I didn't think it was a great deal, despite being quite stoked about it when i found it online. It is packed with locals and scores of new patrons were turned away, i don't understand why it's such a popular cafe. It didn't give me much "feeling". Not worth hunting it down for but if you must...

Directions: ChaoyangMen 朝阳门Station. 6 Chaoyangmen Outer Street, Chao Wai SOHO Building A, Level 6-16. 朝外大街6号朝外 . It's in an office looking building.

This is a Nestle peel-able banana ice-cream. You can buy it for a dollar in convenience stores. The banana "skin" is jelly while it's banana-vanilla flavoured popsicle inside.

The local's xiao long bao, is more like a meat bun rather than those with a thin skin and soup inside. I chanced upon this small shop, walked in, sat and ate with the locals. Ridiculously cheap, SGD 2 for 10 buns. 
3) See a Hutong
Kill two birds with one stone, or in this case, ducks by eating authentic Peking duck in a hutong. Hutongs are the old houses of Beijing, like our colonial shop houses VS skyscrapers. 
Follow the ducks on the wall and you'll find the spot.

Expect to pay SGD 80 for 2 diners but it's well worth it.

Directions: Qian Men 前门station
北京市东城区北翔凤胡同11号 LIQUN +86 10 6705 5578

4) Visit a Sex Store
It's only amusing because we wouldn't otherwise know sexual descriptions in Mandarin.

The first store sprung up in Beijing capital in 1992. Since then, there're about 2000 more. There would be one almost every corner i turn. The one i walked into, it was quite an experience. It was a very tiny shop, almost like a cell. Glass display cabinets filled the shop from floor to ceiling, every product had Mandarin on it. Suddenly, an old lady in a PINK NURSE UNIFORM walked out from a back room. I peeped into the room and all it had was a really old bed frame and a ratty mattress. Later i learned that most shop owners (mostly from the village) live permanently in that tiny shop with their sex toys. Selling them from 10am but you can make a private viewing after 11pm.

From all the adult stores i've visited around the world, the ones in Beijing have a lot more oral or applied medication for various functions. Some pills are touted to prevent diseases (i'm skeptical). The other toys are not something i hadn't seen, but there was a dildo that could be filled with water to "ejaculate" like a real dick. That, raised my eyebrow. I remember the first thing that raised my eyebrow was in Tokyo where i saw a robotic life sized arm for sale. It is modelled after a Japanese porn actor legendary to make girls squirt.

Visit one so you'll be more knowledgable and not be like the reporter who mistook an adult toy as a mushroom and made a fool out of herself and the TV station.

5) DonghuaMen Market
Find cheap stereotypical Chinese souvenirs and knick knacks to bring home, other than the street food and its oddity. I've read online to be wary of the hygiene though, i was really tempted to try out the creepy crawlies but it's no fun doing it alone. 

Finally, you retire for the night and you get these collectibles slipped under your hotel door.

One Night in Beijing, 我留下许多情。


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